23 Things to know before visiting Portugal

Recently awarded as the World’s Best Destination by World Travel Awards, Portugal offers a once in a lifetime travel experience through its rich heritage, ancient castles, charming landscapes and villages and of course, their wine!

You will learn the things to know before visiting Portugal as you read this post. Let us show you how and why Portugal’s tourism is booming year by year and how to truly enjoy Portugal more!

Quick fact about Portugal: Did you know that Portugal is actually the oldest country in Europe? Their foundation dates back up to 868 and was re-founded on 1095!

Things to Know before visiting Portugal

Quick Facts about Portugal

1. Currency in Portugal

The currency used in Portugal is Euro and is actually one of the least expensive places in Western Europe. €1 is equivalent to $1.16. Click here to know the exchange rate between the Euro and your currency!

2. Language

The main language in Portugal is Portuguese. Estimated to have 220 Million native speakers, Portuguese is the sixth most natively spoken language in the world. Almost 7% of them can speak Spanish well but most people easily understands Spanish. English on the other hand is widely spoken on people from the tourism industry. It´s a good chance if you are interested in learn Portuguese language!

3. Visa

US Citizens may enter Portugal for up to 90-days only for tourist and business purposes without visa. Staying more than 90-days needs visa. Passports should also be valid for at least 3-months beyond the period of stay. If you are from a country of citizenship that is not covered under the Schengen Agreement, you’ll need a visa even if it’s just a short stay. Read here our article for the Schengen Visa Philippines where Rachel explained step by step how to get Schengen Visa Philippines.

4. Weather/Best time to visit Portugal

If you want to visit on Summer, July to September will be the best months for you. The water in their beaches might not be warm though, because Portugal isn’t really known to have the warmest waters in their coast. If you plan to visit Porto and the north, July and August will be the hottest months there. Autumn is on September to October. It’s where you can see the stunning and beautiful colors of the city, although it can still be chilly at night.

Click here to check the weather in Portugal!

5. Cash and ATM in Portugal

You can relatively use your cards on most establishments, even on the smaller towns. ATM machines will be everywhere, especially a Multibanco, a banking system in Portugal where it lets people not just withdraw cash but also do other things such as paying bills. Typical surcharge per withdrawal will be $1 to $5. But if you will pay in cash, it must be already in Euro currency because it will be a lot easier.

6. Transportation around Portugal

While in Portugal, you can ride buses, trains, trams and taxis. The Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses or CP is the main rail service in Portugal throughout the country. Trains are the most inexpensive way of going around Portugal. Taxis in Portugal all run in meters, but they can charge more if you have more luggage. Fares can start at €2.50 for the first 500 meters and they are usually marked wit A that means aluguer or for hire. Andante Card is a re loadable card that can be used for tram, metro, bus, suburban trains and funicular. You can buy one that is valid for 24 consecutive hours after first validation has taken place costing € 7,00. Flying to major cities from Portugal is easier since it has 10 international airports. Airlines such as Portugália Airlines and TAP Air Portugal operate numerous flights everyday.

Travel tips: Buses and trains will be the cheapest option to travel around Portugal if you are on a budget. A nice option that we can recommend to you is renting a car and doing your own road trip in Portugal. Since distances aren´t really big we consider is the best way to visit Portugal, especially the South in Algarve.

7. Daily Budget in Portugal

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Portugal may look like an expensive place to go to and stay at, but you can actually just go for cheaper options on things such as staying on a dorm for just €15–22, or for basic hotel room for two for €30 or less. AirBnB is also an option, where you can get rooms for €15 to €22. Click here to get a $30 USD discount on your first booking when you sign up on AirBnB!

You can get meals for two for €10-15 and bottle of wine from €3-5 but if you are opt to a more chepaer one, a beer can just cost €1. Local transportation depending on your route can be as cheap as €7-8 daily including long distance journeys. Typical daily budget can be as low as €50 for two people and can get up to to €100 for mid-range budget.

Read here if you want to be connected online when traveling the world!

Things to know before visiting Portugal about culture

Roman Catholic is the predominant religion in Portugal. They have Holiday Traditions like “Feliz Natal” On Christmas Eve where Portuguese families gather around the Christmas tree. Here are more facts about culture that we will let you know before traveling to Portugal:

8. Listening to Fado music

Portugal has a music genre that dates back to 1920 called Fado. It is known for its expressive nature and is their traditional folk music. It is often played through cafes, pubs and restaurants all over Portugal.

9. Eat Pastel de nata

Image courtesy of Marco Verch

Pastel de nata is a popular pastry in Portugal. It is an egg tart dusted with cinnamon. It’s very creamy, the crust is thin and crispy even if its already cold and tourists eats it any time of the day.

10. Drink Ginjinha

Ginjinha or Ginja is Portugal’s most famous liquor. It’s a liquor drink made of ginja berries and can be drink with or without berries. The portuguese is very fond of this drink. In the 20th century, a small amount of ginja is given to to children as a way to cure a lot of minor sickness.

11. Cafe Culture

Portuguese are fond of sipping coffee at their local cafes. Drinking coffee everyday is a part of their life and coffee is actually cheaper to drink out of their homes. You’ll often see them talking, reading the news paper or watching the television. Cafes are a magnets for gatherings for Portuguese.

12. Nightlife in Portugal

Image courtesy of Ilirjan Rrumbullaku

Portugal is bursting with clubs and bar. Albufeira isn’t just actually known for its beaches but also for the lively nightlife you can experience through the rows of bars and clubs you can go to in The Strip. It is relatively packed on summer by tourists from all over the world. Porto’s downtown area where the bars are located are busiest in the weekends while in weekdays, it’s a more quiet area.

Things to know before visiting Portugal about Food

Portuguese people loves meat, fish and seafood, they are also particular with fresh ingredients and having hearty meals and traditional prepared. Portugal is the top country with the highest consumption of seafood within Europe per capita and at the top four in the world.

13. Caldo verde

Caldo verde is a well known Portuguese soup made of potato, shredded collard greens, and chunks of chouriço or spicy Portuguese sausage. It originated in the northern part of Portugal but is now a national favorite among them.

14. Bacalhau

Image courtesy to Fernanda Pittelkow

Bacalhau or codfish is traditionally cooked for Christmas Eve in Portugal. It is surprisingly not native to the Portugal’s coast and is being imported from Norway. There are a lot of ways to cook Bacalhau but the most famous way to cook it is to mix it with potatoes, eggs, onions, olives, chopped parsley and garlic.

15. Cozido à portuguesa

Cozido à portuguesa is a type of stew mixed with a lot of vegetables like beans, potatoes, carrots, etc. It is considered as one of Portugal’s national dishes and is considered as a part of Portugal’s heritage.

Places to visit in Portugal

16. Lisbon

Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city. Lisbon has a lot of hills, but if you walk along Avenida da Liberdade in Lisbon’s downtown, it’s relatively flat until you meet another sloppy hills. You’ll find tiled buildings and street arts which I think makes Lisbon more charming. Bairro Alto which was Lisbon’s somewhat Bohemian area is a great place to go to for drinks and snacks. Lisbon isn’t also really cold in winter unlike others that are close in Atlantic Ocean.

17. Algarve 

things to know about Portugal

Algarve is the least densely populated place in any areas in Europe. It’s in the Southern coastline part of Portugal and is a great destination for family holidays as there are calmer and smaller resorts they can go to. Its coast stretches up to 125 miles fo beaches. It harbors 6 out of 14 Michelin Starred restaurants in Europe.

18. Madeira Island

Madeira is an autonomous region in Portugal that composes of 4 small islands off the northwest coast of Africa. It may look like a fun place to swim, but its coast is actually more of rocks and cliffs. If you want to explore more, you can rent a car to user the whole day. The roads are perfect for road trips with friends and family. You can go to Funchal, Medira’s largest city using a cable car. If you climb the top of the mountain of Pico do Areiero which is Madeira’s third highest peak, you can experience and see the magnificent views of the clouds.

19. Porto

Image courtesy of Claudio Marcio

Porto is Portugal’s second largest city. It is considered as the north’s capital. Its old town that was built on the hills overlooking the Douro River is now official an UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can go to the south bank of the river and have a taste of their famous port wine.

20. UNESCO Sites

Portugal has a total of 14 cultural heritage and 1 natural heritage listed in UNESCO. The only natural world heritage in the list is the Laurisilva of Madeira. It is the largest surviving area of the Laurel Forest in Madeira. There are massive trees that are believed to be over 800 years old. it is protected under regional, national and European Law. Staffs and personnel are employed to maintain the forest for a long term.

You can check other sites  here in UNESCO’S official website.

Festivals in Portugal

Portugal has colorful and lively festivals as well as religious events all year long. Way or type of celebrations may vary per city as some really make sure that they’re all out with decorations and props.

21. Festa daz cruzes

Festa da Cruzes or feast of the cross is the largest annual event held in Barcelos, Minho that dates back to the 16th Century. It composes of parades of folk costumed individuals or groups, fireworks, circus performances and horse races.

22. Fatima

Image courtesy of Padre Hugo Martins

Peregrinacao de Fatima or Fatima is the most famous Christian pilgrimage in Portugal. There will be procession on May 12 leading to the sanctuary. The next day will be when people are going to wave their white handkerchiefs while the statue of Virgin Mary is carried to the high altar of the Chapel of the Apparitions during Adeus or farewell.

23. Semana Santa

This tradition dates back up to the 16th Century. It is where scenes from the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ were told through a series of processions through the streets each year. In Braga, during Semana Santa, the city is decorated with flowers and lights.

Click here and you can get $30 USD off your first booking with AirBnB when you sign up with us!

Click here to get the best deals in Portugal with Booking!

For more information about Portugal read our things to do in Lisbon, our road trip to Algarve and how to get to Albufeira from Lisbon.

Tell us your experience or questions! If you continue your trip around Europe to France read our things to know before visiting France or our blog post things to know before visiting Spain.

Read here things to know before visiting Greece!

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Happy travels!

Ruben Arribas is a Spanish traveler who has traveled more than 70+ countries around the world. He believes in travel without money. Recently, he finished a bicycle trip, 9500 km, from Madrid to North Cape.

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